The use of artemether-lumefantrine for the treatment of uncomplicated Plasmodium vivax malaria

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2011 Dec;5(12):e1325. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001325. Epub 2011 Dec 27.


The long-standing dearth of knowledge surrounding Plasmodium vivax, the most widely distributed of the malaria species, merits urgent attention. A growing awareness of the true burden of this parasite and its potential to cause severe disease, and the identification of increasing parasite resistance in many areas of the world to chloroquine, the mainstay of vivax treatment, underscores the need to identify new and effective treatment strategies. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been widely adopted as first-line treatment for P. falciparum malaria and would offer logistic benefits in areas of co-endemicity. However, while ACTs show high and similar efficacy against the blood stages of P. vivax, neither ACTs nor chloroquine are active against vivax hypnozoites and must be complemented with a full course of primaquine to eradicate dormant vivax hypnozoites and prevent relapses. Artemether-lumefantrine (AL), the most commonly deployed ACT, has shown rapid clearance of P. vivax parasitemia and fever. The relatively short half-life of lumefantrine would appear beneficial in terms of reducing risk of resistance when compared to other ACTs. However, it has a shorter capability to suppress vivax relapses or prevent de novo infections, which generally translates into comparatively lower in vivo short-term measures of efficacy (e.g., day 28 or day 42 uncorrected cure rates). Assuming that the different artemisinin derivatives have equivalent efficacy against vivax, differences between AL and other ACTs may be restricted to the duration of plasma therapeutic levels of the partner drug, a variable of limited clinical relevance, particularly in regions with low vivax transmission rates or in cases where primaquine is added to the regimen to prevent relapses. More rigorous assessment of the use of ACTs in general, and AL in particular, for the treatment of P. vivax infections, either alone or in combination with primaquine, is merited. In the meantime, AL treatment of vivax malaria may be a pragmatic choice for areas with chloroquine-resistant P. vivax, and in co-endemic areas where AL is already used routinely against P. falciparum and parasitological differentiation is not routinely performed or only clinical diagnosis is used.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / administration & dosage
  • Antimalarials / pharmacokinetics
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Artemether, Lumefantrine Drug Combination
  • Artemisinins / administration & dosage
  • Artemisinins / pharmacokinetics
  • Artemisinins / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Resistance
  • Ethanolamines / administration & dosage
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacokinetics
  • Ethanolamines / therapeutic use*
  • Fluorenes / administration & dosage
  • Fluorenes / pharmacokinetics
  • Fluorenes / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Vivax / drug therapy*
  • Malaria, Vivax / parasitology
  • Plasmodium vivax / drug effects
  • Primaquine / administration & dosage
  • Primaquine / pharmacokinetics
  • Primaquine / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antimalarials
  • Artemether, Lumefantrine Drug Combination
  • Artemisinins
  • Drug Combinations
  • Ethanolamines
  • Fluorenes
  • Primaquine